The Mistletoe Center

Ask the Specialist, a resource of The Mistletoe Center

Q: How do I get rid of mistletoe?

Q: Where can I buy mistletoe?

Q: How can I grow mistletoe?

Q: What are the medicinal uses of mistletoe?

Q: Where do I find mistletoe?

Q: Is mistletoe poisonous?

Other question? Ask our specialist

Q: How do I get rid of mistletoe?
A: Mistletoes are parasitic plants with a root-like system imbedded in their host to extract food and water. The good news is that mistletoes are obligate parasites, which mean they survive only in living tissue. Pruning an infected branch kills the mistletoe on that branch. The bad news is that you cannot eliminate mistletoe from a tree unless all infected limbs are removed. If a tree were completely infected, you'd kill the tree if you removed all infected limbs. Often times there are less drastic measures you can take in order to enjoy your trees and tolerate mistletoe because mistletoes spread slowly and it takes many infections and years to kill a tree. There are two main types of mistletoes, true mistletoes and dwarf mistletoes, and each requires a different strategy for control.

If you have an infected oak, maple or other hardwood or a juniper or cypress, you are dealing with a "true" mistletoe species. Birds feed on the berry-like fruits of these mistletoes and can widely disperse the seeds. These mistletoes have green leafy shoots, so they produce most of their own food and cause little damage to the host unless most of the tree is infected. These mistletoes however, do draw a lot of water from their hosts and can seriously desiccate the host during a drought unless you water adequately at these times. One form of control is pruning branches where infections are light. Another is planting replacement trees that are not host for the mistletoe, because many types of mistletoe infect only one type of tree. Chemical controls with sprays or injections have limited value. In the meantime, get a pair of binoculars and enjoy the birds visiting your trees. Here are some websites to checkout for more information on true mistletoe biology and control:
www.fs.fed.us/r6/nr/fid/fidls/147.htm
www.forestpests.org/southern/Diseases/mstltoe.htm
www.hedgerows.com/GTJournal/01-12dec99/page03.htm
If you have an infected pine tree or some other conifer besides juniper or cypress, your trees are infected with a dwarf mistletoe. These seeds are explosively discharged, so dispersal is near the site of the original infection. If only a few limbs are infected, you can prune infected branches to improve tree health and reduce spread. If you have a lot of infected limbs in a tree or a lot of infected trees on your property, you may want to focus on removing the most heavily infected trees and/or pruning the most heavily infected limbs. The latter can increase the life expectancy of some trees. Here are some websites to check out for more information on the biology and control of dwarf mistletoes:
www.fs.fed.us/r6/nr/fid/fidls/fidl19.htm
ext.nrs.wsu.edu/info/fhn/dwfmist.html
www.rms.nau.edu/mistletoe/hguide/hguide.html

Q: Where can I buy mistletoe?
A: You can locate information on the Internet by searching with the phrase "mistletoe for sale". Because this is a USDA, Forest Service site, we neither advertise nor endorse any commercial service or product.

Q: How can I grow mistletoe?
A: If this question is about growing Christmas-like mistletoe you should do a web search using "mistletoe cultivation". If you want to grow dwarf mistletoe, you can search the Annotated Bibliography with the keyword "cultivation".

Q: What are the medicinal uses of mistletoe?
A: Since we are forest pathologists, ecologists, and botanists with limited information on the medicinal uses of mistletoes, we are not qualified to give or evaluate medical advise on the health affects of mistletoes. The Guest Book contains researchers and others with interest in this topic and some published literature on pharmacological uses of mistletoe extracts is included in the Annotated Bibliography.

Q: Where do I find mistletoe?
A: Most people asking this question are searching for true mistletoes for use at Christmas time. These mistletoes are found on hardwoods in warmer forested regions of the United States, especially portions of California, the Southwest, and South. Your county extension agent may know where you can collect mistletoe. Many herbaria now post distribution information on line (look for species of Phoradendron).

Q: Is mistletoe poisonous?
A: Some mistletoes are poisonous to humans, especially some of the true or leafy mistletoes of hardwood trees, but it typically takes ingestion of numerous leaves or shoots of a mistletoe plant to affect an adult. Children and pets on the other hand, are much smaller and are affected by a lot less of a plant. Lots of websites with information on this topic come up with use of the keywords "mistletoe poisons" or "mistletoe and pets".

For more information on these and other topics be sure and look at the Links page.

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